FC Cincinnati was on target at Nippert Stadium and thrilled over 22 thousand supporters with four goals and a victory against Atlanta United 2 on Saturday. The win capped-off a tremendous week on the field for Alan Koch’s men, who collected maximum points and launched themselves to the top of the Eastern Conference standings.
FCC accumulated three wins, including two road-wins, ten goals, and nine points in just eight days. That’s arguably the best week in FC Cincinnati’s short history as a franchise, depending on how you measure success. As an added benefit, Louisville City FC dropped their first match of the season, which allowed the Orange & Blue to leapfrog them and go into first place in the Eastern Conference. This marks the first time in FC Cincinnati’s history that they have claimed first place in the Eastern Conference.
The league table trend for FC Cincinnati below shows the last 20 game days via Fussball Datenbank. Note that this graph and its rankings treat the USL as if it had a single league table.
Depth on Display
Alan Koch leveraged his depth this week and it paid big dividends. He featured 18 different FCC players over the last three league matches. However, the Saturday matches (Ottawa and Atlanta) featured almost the same eleven starters lined up in a 4-4-2 with a diamond midfield. The one difference between those matches is that Jimmy McLaughlin started as the CAM against Atlanta United 2 in place of the injured Nazmi Albadawi. The big rotation, of course, came on Wednesday and included six changed starters. It also included a tactical shift to a less aggressive 4-2-3-1 formation.
FC Cincinnati now has five wins out of eight matches all-time on weekends following a mid-week game. They flexed their muscles in the depth department this week, and the coaching staff will likely use the strategies employed as a recipe for success for the rest of the season. The matches come thick and fast starting in mid-May as the US Open Cup enters the equation.
FCC got results in the first few matches of this season on the back of a solid defense and an in-form Evan Newton. The offense struggled to find fluency at that early stage. The results featured low shots totals, low shooting accuracy, and a conversion rate near the bottom of the league.
Times have changed. The offense is clicking, the goals are coming, and Saturday’s win was built on the back of clinical finishing. The Orange & Blue didn’t produce their highest goal total of the season by peppering the Atlanta goal with a large number of shots. Atlanta actually had 1 more shot on the night than FC Cincinnati did. They produced the victory by capitalizing on the opportunities they were presented.
Emmanuel Ledesma had five shots, two were on target, and he scored two goals. Manu also had the assist for the first goal to round out a man-of-the-match worthy performance. Danni König had four shots, three on target and scored one goal. Kenney Walker couldn’t continue his scoring streak, but Corben Bone picked up where he left off and now has three goals in the past three matches. Corben Bone’s goal on Saturday came from his only shot of the evening.
The graphic above demonstrates FCC’s offensive efficiency. They produced 13 shots on Saturday, six were on target (46% shooting accuracy) and 4 were goals (44% conversion rate*). Compare this to a 25% shooting accuracy and 8% conversion rate over FCC’s first four matches of the season. After producing only 3 goals in their first four matches, FC Cincinnati is now tied for the most goals in the USL with 15. Additionally, they now boast a conversion rate of 19% which is tied for second-best in the league.
*This definition of conversion rate excludes blocked shots for consistency with USL site.
Much Ado about Guido
There was a lot of pre-match angst about the return of referee Guido Gonzales Jr. to Nippert for this match. He was much maligned after his role in a loss that FC Cincinnati suffered at the hands of the Rochester Rhinos last season. It was a quiet night for Guido on Saturday and everyone was thankful. The match ran smoothly, despite a few heated moments between the players, and only three cards were issued. You have to give credit where it’s due, and this one went well for refereeing crew.
Take Advantage of the Rest
A much quieter week is approaching for the Orange & Blue and they will need the rest. Their next match is on the road on Saturday, May 12th against the Charlotte Independence. That will be the first of another three matches in eight days. Alan Koch’s side then returns to US Open Cup action the following week. They have a match at Gettler on 5/16 followed by a league encounter with North Carolina FC on 5/19. The schedule is about to heat up and it looks like Alan Koch’s side is finding form at the right time.
Stay tuned to Orange & Blue Press for more coverage of FC Cincinnati’s 2018 season.